Best and Worst

An icebreaker to learn your team’s hopes and fears about a project’s outcome.

Wendy Ruyle 1.20.2022

Ice breakers usually help you learn a little bit about the stranger sitting next to you. This one will help you set audacious goals for your next project and avoid pitfalls by knowing your team’s mindset going in.

When you bring a new team together to start a project you are sure to have some who can’t wait to get started and others who are dreading every minute. Use this exercise to dig deep into those hopes and fears to alleviate tension in the group and gain consensus on the right way to move forward.

What’s the best that could happen?

Go around the room and ask your team to tell you the best possible outcome they can imagine for this project. Encourage them to think big. Maybe the company rakes in record profits, and they get promoted. Maybe efficiency is increased so much the organization switches to a 4-day work week. Maybe a disease is cured, awards are won, or homelessness in your city is eliminated—big, audacious goals.

Write each hope down in a list. Now go through the list and discuss what you can do as a team to make each item happen: manage the schedule properly, devote enough hours to it, manage expectations, get management’s buy-in, promote the project internally, get more specialists on the team, etc. Gather ideas on creative ways to support everyone on the team to achieve your common goals.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Now take another pass around the room and ask what their worst fears about this project are. Maybe they think they will do a lot of work for a strategy that will never get adopted. Maybe they think their flaws will be highlighted and they will be fired. Maybe they just don’t feel they have time for it so it will fail.

Write them all down again and discuss what you can do to avoid these worst-case scenarios. You may find your to-dos very similar on both lists. Be sure to keep this list in a place where all team members can access it throughout the project. If you hit a roadblock, go back to the list, and see what tactics you haven’t been applying properly and where you can improve.

By going through this exercise at the beginning of the project you will achieve at least three things:

  1. You will gain critical insight into your team. If you are a manager, you’ll know what they want out of their job so you can help them achieve it. If you are a consultant, you’ll understand the dynamics of the group and will be better able to coach them to success.
  2. You will alleviate fears. Once your team says their fears out loud, they don’t seem so scary anymore. Plus, you will have a list of tactics to avoid the failures and a team that is ready to support one another.
  3. Your team will have a common goal. They will be motivated by the possibilities that come out of the exercise. And they will have a shared bond by hearing each other’s hopes and fears. 

Often, we want to get right to work on a new project but an exercise like this can help you make sure you are ready, willing, and able to tackle the project and ensure success.​​​​​

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